Tillsonburg's 45-year Great Ride 'N' Stride tradition carries on

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Melissa Boesterd, president of the Tillsonburg branch of the Canadian Cancer Society, says any form of participation, for any dollar amount, can provide personal satisfaction when joining the fight against cancer.

Tillsonburg's Pat Green, who walked 3 km in Sunday afternoon's 45th Great Ride 'N' Stride to Beat Cancer, agrees wholeheartedly.

"Bill Pratt got me going about 12-13 years ago," said Green. "I do this because we are all, in one way or another, affected by cancer in some form or fashion. Whether it's yourself, diagnosed with it, a family member, a friend, a co-worker or associate, a client or a neighbour, at some point we're all affected. It's true, and a lot more people are alive today because of the money for research."

About 30 registered adults, plus a number of their kids, joined Sunday's Great Ride 'N' Stride from the Tillsonburg Community Centre in a trip around Lake Lisgar.

"The walk – the Great Ride 'N' Stride – is a community thing," said Green. "You can get out, you can do it, so why not do it? It's like each walk's 'in memory.'

"One of my sponsors told me as he signed my sheet, 'do you know where that started?' He said, 'I don't know how many years ago it was, but the first one was in Thamesford.' And he was from Thamesford, that's why he was giving me money. Some people do it (pledge/sponsor) because they can't make it out for the walk. Some people will do it because of the loss of a family member.

"Whatever they do it for, their reasons are their own, and I want to thank all of my sponsors. I'd like to thank them all, each and every one of them. I couldn't have done it without them."

According to the Thamesford Lions Club website, Thamesford was home of the original ride, then known as the Ladies Ride for Cancer. In 1968 a group of 39 ladies participated and raised over $4,000 for cancer research. In 1969 the County of Oxford jumped in and another $30,000 was raised through the event. Over the years it has expanded across the country.

"Forty-five years," said Pratt, one of the originals who helped Bob and Madge Montgomery organize Tillsonburg's first. "It was the Ladies Great Ride for Cancer, the way it started."

Pratt, who did his walk Saturday, earned the Top Individual Fundraiser Trophy bringing in $2,915, while the Mount Elgin United Church won the Top Community Team award raising $1,180.

"I didn't know if I was going to make it or not," Pratt joked, adding with a laugh, "I take my camera with me so when I'm tired, I stop and act like I want to take a picture."


Team McLaughlin won the 2014 Family Trophy raising $2,555.

"Today we had 14 family members," said Kim (McLaughlin) McCutchen after her fourth Great Ride 'N' Stride. "My grandma's here, my aunt, us, and my daughter, so four generations. Cancer's been in our family – that's why we're doing it."

"The Omerods and McLaughlins, we've had a rivalry the last few years," said Boesterd, a member of Team Omerod. "My grandmother's Violet Omerod, and she's been involved in the Tillsonburg branch for years. Now my sisters, my mom and I, all are as well. It's nice just to have more families involved."

"A lot of people brought out their kids, that's what I like about this," said Pratt. "It makes it a fun event."

Tillsonburg's 2014 Great Ride 'N' Stride added a new business team, Trinkets. The Top Business Trophy went to Coward PharmaChoice, raising $1,665.

"It was beautiful today," summed up Boesterd. "We've only had one year (2011) with rain, but this was fantastic. It makes for a liesurely walk. It's more enjoyable when the sun's shining and the birds are chirping – you get a little more out of the day."

In total, $8,638 was raised for the Canadian Cancer Society Sunday afternoon, bringing Tillsonburg's 10-year-total to $87,604.



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